Little ditty ’bout Jack and Diane

On the EI reform package release

First off, ITQ would like to offer sincere apologies to any readers incurably earwormed by that headline, but once it popped into her mind, she just couldn’t not inflict it on the world.

Anyway, as we were informed by media advisory earlier this morning, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley will deliver a “brief statement regarding an Employment Insurance measure for long-tenured workers,” followed — and here’s the bit that made ITQ check the headers to make sure this wasn’t a hoax — by “a question and answer session with the media.” She’ll be accompanied by Revenue Minister and Minister of State for Agriculture and Fielding Questions From The French Media  Jean-Pierre Blackburn.

The whole thing kicks off at 11:15 EST sharp in the Hall of Honour, so check back for full coverage.
11:06:45 AM
Greetings, followers of the bouncing ball that is parliamentary democracy! We’re here outside the Conservative caucus room awaiting the arrival of the Ministeress of Making Parliament Work (Maybe), who will almost certainly serve as sufficient distraction to allow the rest of the MPs to escape unmolested by the reporters currently massing outside the door. Oh, and maybe even save the country from the horror of a fall election. It could still happen, people! Clap louder!

Meanwhile, someone — it’s not clear who, exactly, which is why ITQ is temporarily abandoning her post to get a closer look — aha! It’s newly minted Senator Jacques Demers, and he’s been scrumming for an awfully long time. I wonder what he’s saying? Or if PMO knows that he’s saying it? Don’t you love not knowing what’s going on?

11:15:19 AM
And here ew go! The minister is in turquoise, but her microphone does not appear to be on, which means that her dulcet tones are being virtually swallowed by the marble hall. This is now being explained to Diane Finley, who seems a little taken aback by being asked to speak louder — “you have to yell,” someone clarifies. Is this a trick to make Marlene Jennings look right? No, no it’s not. We really can’t hear you from behind this cordon.

11:17:06 AM
She’s a trooper, that Finley — delivering her statement in the most ringing voice she can, which, sadly, is still a few decibels short of what is needed. Luckily, it seems that Bob Fife had it right, as far as the announcement itself; it is a “temporary measure” to help long-term workers, in addition – she reminds us all – to the many helping hands to workers that have already been initiated under the Economic Action! Plan.

And now, Jean Pierre Blackburn will say the same thing in French. Also, with more volume. Lucky French reporters; *they* got a much more useable clip.

11:21:02 AM
Actually, Blackburn appears to be giving a far more enthusiastic performance of the statement; he’s going into more detail about the sectors that will be affected by this measure — auto, forestry — and really seems to be more excited about it than the minister, who is smiling tightly at her colleague as he expounds on the wonder of this latest demonstration of how much this government cares about workers. Which it does.

11:23:13 AM
And questions! Although one of my feistier English colleagues starts out with the slightly more aggressive “How much will this cost, minister?”, Finley ignores him — or didn’t hear, maybe — and instead fields a French question on the origin of the measure. Apparently, it was discussed this spring, and — yeah, the rest kind of trailed off, not from the minister’s point of view, but those of us trying to hear it from a mere ten feet away.

This is followed by another question from a French reporter on the technicalities of the bill — I’m sorry, my language skills just aren’t good enough to pick up the jargon, but it sounds like we’re about to get an English question.
11:26:03 AM
Oh, wait, no we aren’t. More from Blackburn, as the minister continues to gaze at him with deep, grave fascination.

11:26:37 AM
Julie Van Dusen asks the one question everyone wants answered: Is this enough to bring the NDP on side? Finley plays coy — they’re bringing in this legislation because it’s a good idea, and if the other parties support it, well — that would be great.

Sorry, Jack. No impassioned plea for your support from this lectern.

11:28:57 AM
“Why now,” wonders another reporter — these people have, after all, been out of work for some time. Why the sudden urge to do more? Finley once again rhymes off the list of all the measures already in place, but is hit with the obvious followup: What made them realize that they hadn’t done enough? Finley repeats that this was first discussed last spring – March, to be precise – and notes that she had hoped that the EI panel would have been able to contribute to their efforts at putting it together, but alas: “Michael Ignatieff walked out.” Technically, Michael Ignatieff wasn’t *on* the panel, but we’ll allow the poetic licence.

11:31:55 AM
The scrum is getting a bit rancourous — I think the poor sound is adding to the frustration — and Finley’s flack gives us the last question warning; that question, as it turns out, goes to Blackburn, and once again involves the technical issues. This time, it’s about women, specifically — would the time they’d taken for maternity leave count against the seven year requirement?

Wait, there’s a news release? I didn’t get a news release.

11:33:49 AM
Hey, here’s Paul Dewar, reacting to the announcement! This is unexpected! He seems to like the idea of extending benefits, but “we have to study this” – and examine the details. In other words, no deal — yet. Stay tuned.

11:35:13 AM
A reporter wonders what the NDP will do if a confidence vote happens before the bill comes forward, and Dewar shows his hand a little by calling this “a very serious proposal.” It would be ‘irresponsible’ not to consider what’s on the table.

11:36:10 AM
“After everything you threw at the Liberals,” CTV’s Graham Richardson wonders, “It’s come to this.” Dewar – who I’ve got to tell you, I don’t envy at the moment – assures him that this is a “good start.” “It’s nowhere near 360!” Van Dusen points out, and Dewar once again equivocates.

“Is this a coalition with Stephen Harper?” asks the troublesome Richardson. No, it’s — oh, there goes Paul Dewar. I think we can safely assume the answer is no.

Huh. Your move, someone.

11:38:25 AM
ITQ is now going to head over to the Chateau to hear from Ignatieff — see you in the next thread!